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IT, pharma stocks lift Indian shares as coronavirus cases near a million

A bird flies past the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) building in Mumbai, India, January 31, 2020. REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas/Files

BENGALURU (Reuters) - Indian shares closed higher on Thursday, led by gains in pharmaceutical and IT stocks, even though coronavirus cases in the world’s second-most populous nation inched towards one million.

The NSE Nifty 50 index ended 1.15% higher at 10,739.95, while the S&P BSE Sensex closed up 1.16% at 36,471.68.

Shares of Infosys surged nearly 15% to a record high during the session after the software services provider reported a better-than-expected profit in the first quarter on Wednesday evening and reinstated its full-year revenue growth guidance.

Infosys boosted the Nifty IT index, which closed up 3% on Thursday.

The Nifty Pharma index rose 1.7%, with generic drugmaker Cipla Ltd touching its highest in over three weeks before finishing up 5.6%.

Banking and auto indexes also gained about 1% and 1.2%, respectively.

Coronavirus cases in the country reached 968,876 as of Thursday morning, federal government data showed, with more states and cities forced to impose fresh lockdowns to contain its spread.

The pandemic has depressed domestic demand, with India reporting a trade surplus for the first time in more than 18 years for June, as imports of crude oil, gold and other industrial products plunged, reflecting a slowing economy.

Bharti Infratel was the day’s top laggard among stocks, shedding 6.8%, while cigarettes-to-hotels conglomerate ITC Ltd declined 2.4%.

Reporting by Derek Francis in Bengaluru; Editing by Krishna Chandra Eluri